The 2019 Draft for the Philadelphia Eagles was highlighted by the team’s clear focus on reshaping the offense. By adding Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles have now added three pieces that can come in an make a significant impact right away. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at the role each offensive rookie will play, and how they can help improve an offense that sputtered at times last season.
Andre Dillard, Tackle
In classic Howie Roseman draft style, the Eagles traded up to Pick 22 of the first round to nab their left tackle of the future under the nose of the Houston Texans, who had clearly expressed their interest in Dillard. Scouts had raved about Dillard’s proficiency in pass sets and how his unique blend of athleticism and fluid footwork make him the ideal blindside protector.
The downfall in Dillard’s play has been his ability to handle the power rush, hand use, and questioned ability as a run blocker. With O-Line guru Jeff Stoutland at the helm, Dillard is in safe hands, and these concerns in technique should be coached up. Ideally, for Dillard, his idol just so happens to be future hall of famer Jason Peters, so he has a ready-made mentor whom he can model his game off.
Many have tipped Dillard to sit behind Peters and learn on the run, molding in to the LT of the future. This may not be the case though, with the depth across the offensive line an uncertainty come Week 1, Dillard could be asked to play Guard or a reshuffle of the line may occur.
The Eagles would likely want Dillard to sit as much as possible in order to focus on reaching his potential, but given Peters’ recent inability to play 16 games, he may be asked to come in and make an impact at some point during the season. Dillard should be ready to play second fiddle to Peters, potentially filling in rotationally across the offensive line during games on passing downs.
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Miles Sanders, Running Back
Despite expectations of first-round pick Andre Dilard being a backup, the Eagles drafted a dynamic playmaker in Sanders who will be finding the end-zone from Week 1. Roseman was able to pluck their number-one rated player at the position, with Sanders checking all the boxes as a roster need, scheme fit and high-character person.
Sanders will be the perfect foil to the current Running Back stable headlined by Jordan Howard and Corey Clement. He provides a good balance of Howard’s bell-cow traits and Clement’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Sanders personifies what it means to be a 3-down back at the next level.
The only concerns about Sanders as an NFL prospect revolves around his ability to pass protect and hold onto the rock. Again, the Eagles are blessed in the coaching department to have Duce Staley as running backs coach, who has improved these same issues for a similar back in Shady McCoy.
With the additions of both Howard and Sanders to the Eagles backfield for season 2019 I believe we will see shades of the offensive game plan that led the Eagles to Super Bowl success only 2 years ago.
Howard will play the role of the bruiser, as did LeGarrette Blount. The loss of Blount was heavily felt last season, as the offense often began games with a 3 and out and was unable to establish the run and gain success in short yardage situations. We often saw a one-dimensional offense that was too pass-heavy, and opposing defenses weren’t biting on play actions because there was simply not a genuine threat in the backfield. Another undervalued aspect that Blount brought to the Eagles was the ability to grind out games and chew the clock. Hopefully, for Eagles fans, Jordan Howard can be the bell cow and short yardage monster that is crucial to Doug Pederson’s game plan.
So, where does leave Sanders in the Eagles offense and running back rotation? Howard is the bell-cow and Clement will be the scat back, therefore Sanders is quite simply the x-factor and point of difference that can push the Eagles to victory.
Opposing defenses won’t necessarily know what role Sanders will play when he’s on the field because he is so damn versatile (Sanders averaged 6 YPC and showed strong hands in his college career). Although he is not as freakishly gifted or talented as his Penn State Alum Saquon Barkley, Sanders is able to do many of the same things, which is why Penn State’s offense didn’t fall completely on its face this past season.
Sanders’ sheer versatility means he can come in at any situation, whether it be short yardage, goal line or 1st down coming out of trouble. Expect Doug Pederson to find ways to get Sanders involved as a key tool to exploit holes in whatever defense the Eagles come up against.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Wide Reciever
Now we come to my favorite pick the Eagles made in the Draft; Wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside out of Stanford. I predicted Arcega-Whiteside as an under-the-radar Day 2 pick for the Eagles in my last article. Many questioned why the Eagles would go with a receiver when there were more pressing needs at safety and linebacker. When it came down to it, the Eagles went with their board and took the best player available in their opinion at pick 57.
Howie Roseman followed the trend on picking high character guys to fit the strong Eagles locker room culture as well. Despite an already crowded receiver room, I believe JJ will force his way on the field with his play and quickly become a fan favorite in Philly.
Put Simply, JJ is a matchup nightmare for DB’s. The former basketball player uses his height and frame to dominate in the red zone and climb over outstretched corners to high point the ball on deep routes. Add a solid 4.49 40 time and you’ve essentially got a more athletic Alshon Jeffery (I’m running with the ‘Baby Alshon’ nickname).
JJ was a monster at Stanford, averaging a whopping 16 yards per catch for his career and hauling in 14 TD’s this past season. The depth of the Eagles receiving corps may work in JJ’s favor, as he will likely see single coverages, allowing him to expose smaller DB’s with his physical gifts and already crisp route running.
Like Sanders, JJ can be used all over the field and will likely see snaps across all situations. JJ also shows willingness and strength as a run blocker. One of my favorite quotes came from analyst Connor Rogers who describe JJ as a ‘junkyard dog’ in the run game. Eagles fans can expect to see a lot of JJ Arcega-Whiteside this season so get excited.
With the addition of 3 key rookies, the Eagles will likely field a more balanced offense which focuses on exposing mismatches with the size and speed they bring at skills positions across the field. Coach Doug Pederson will employ his naturally aggressive game style to build pressure on opposing teams by piling on the points, and bank on the Eagles defense ability to bend but not break. One of the major disappointments of the Eagles offense last year was the recurring trend of coming away with 3 points rather than 7, a far cry from the explosive unit that balled out in 2017. With so many weapons across the field, Eagles fans should prepare for a lot of TD’s this year. I personally cannot wait to see what this offense looks like come Week 1. Fly Eagles Fly.